Always a boom after tragedy, when will that be for Malaysia?


Always a boom after tragedy, when will that be for Malaysia?
By Zan Azlee

If you look at history, you will notice after any form of tragedy, there will be a huge rise and boom in society. After the Spanish Flu in 1918 where 50 million people died, there was a huge economic boom in the United States and Europe (which, of course, meant the whole world prospered) in the 1920s.

After World War 2 ended in the 1940s, there was a baby boom around the world, but more specifically in the United States and Japan in the 1940s through the 1950s. It is also most probably because of a continuation of the economic boom that was coming through from the 1920s and 1930s.

So if we are staunch believers in the study of history, then we would also be inclined to believe that history always repeats itself. Would we be looking at a boom after this current Covid-19 pandemic? With all the struggles that we are facing now, it would be nice to have faith that everything will get better in the end.

Well, it seems that the whole world is already starting to look optimistic. The big economies of the world are predicting a surge in economic growth, of which they are actually starting to see a trend. In the United States, retail sales are starting to increase. Savings due to financial aid by the government also means that people will be coming out of their cabin fever.

According to an article in The New York Times, economists are predicting the United States will experience a growth of 6.8 percent in the economy and the unemployment rate will drop to 4.1 percent by the end of the year. All this is thanks to a lot of factors. The government injecting trillions of dollars is definitely one of the leading ones.

Other factors include a society that has adapted to all kinds of new methods and technologies to do business and just for survival. The work-from-home culture has proven to be a big boon and seems to be benefiting both employees and employers. An efficient vaccination rollout that is improving by the day is also playing a big factor.

This isn’t just happening in the United States. Europe is also seeing its economy opening up and moving forward. Japan is hopeful that the Olympics is finally going to happen and that they can show the world how they can be great hosts, just like how they were during the 2002 Fifa World Cup.

Now let’s pull back and look at Malaysia. After the first stages of our lockdown in between March and July 2020, it seemed like we were getting a handle on things. We started opening up as well. Although the world was still in a dire situation, Malaysia got our daily infection numbers down to single digits. So we opened up our country, even if it was just for ourselves.

And let me tell you that everyone just pounced. My family and I, after months of staying home, traveled the country as we had never traveled before. We went to Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pahang. Then we went to Kedah and Penang. We also went south to Malacca and Johor. And it wasn’t just us. It was the whole country.

Sunway Lagoon theme park, Selangor in July 2020

All the hotels and resorts that we went to were packed and fully booked. The restaurants were full of customers. Of course, there were SOPs to follow and we all followed them. Shopping malls started seeing people coming and retail sales definitely started picking up. All those who were suffering through the last few months slowly started seeing the light again.

But something happened along the way. It could have been the Sabah state elections, it could have been the opening of the country too soon. It could have been too many of those who were supposed to be in quarantine flouting the rules. It could have been too much politicking. But the past is the past and we can play the blame game till the end of time without coming up with any solutions.

The fact of the matter is that we were ahead last year. We were cited as one of the more successful countries in managing the pandemic. But now, we are one of the worst. When the entire world is recovering and opening up, we are shutting back down. We don’t have to constantly play the blame game. What we really need to do is just learn from what happened and fix it.

It is clear that Malaysia needs proper leadership who can convince the people that proper action is being taken to get things back on track. It shouldn’t be very hard. First of all, convince the people you will govern properly (maybe open up Parliament?). Then learn from what was done in the first lockdown in 2020. After that, learn what other countries have been doing so far.

Okay, vaccination rollout is improving. But we also need a more effective strategy for the lockdown. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown lockdown. A properly targeted one would suffice instead of locking everyone down with confusing rules and regulations that nobody understands clearly.

What about the economy? Day after day, we see reports of how businesses are struggling and shutting down. We also see in news reports that many employers are being given fines for flouting the lockdown SOPs. The Human Resource Ministry recently said that RM1.2 million in fines were issued since June 1.

I’m sure there are right reasons for the SOPs to be there. I am just perplexed as to why these employers would still want to flout the rules. I don’t know for sure what their reasons are but if so many are willing to do it, could it be that their situation is so dire that there are risks they are willing to take in order to survive?

A simplistic example would be the story of a poor mother resorting to breaking the law by stealing a loaf of bread to feed her hungry children. This could be something the government could contemplate. Unfortunately, the country isn’t doing very well economically and this is a challenge the government needs to overcome.

Now, the deadline for the country’s third full lockdown is fast approaching. The numbers have not improved at all. The economy is sickly. What will the government decide next? Whatever it is, it needs to take every single factor and person into consideration. And in order for that to happen, maybe all heads should come together to figure out the best way.

It is clear that everyone is on the same page in wanting the pandemic to end and for the economy to open up and improve. It’s just that the way to get there is a tricky road. Maybe, just maybe, Parliament should reconvene so things can be discussed properly and transparently. That’s just my humble opinion.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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